Snowden leaks: Law used in David Miranda detention incompatible with human rights, court rules

David Miranda. © Ueslei Marcelino
Legal loopholes used to detain David Miranda at Heathrow Airport while he was carrying leaked intelligence files for journalistic use are incompatible with human rights laws, a UK court has ruled.

While lawful, the detention for nine hours of Miranda, partner of Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, was found to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judgment was announced by master of rolls, Lord Dyson, in a hearing in a UK court of appeal.

Miranda was detained while he transited through the UK in August 2013 carrying files related to the leaks on mass surveillance and spy operations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Security authorities stopped Miranda at the airport using Schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act and held him for nine hours.

Tuesday’s ruling recognizes that due to a lack of safeguards the loophole is incompatible with European human rights laws, given it could be used arbitrarily against journalists.

Rose Brighouse, legal director at the charity Liberty, said: “This judgment is a major victory for the free press. Schedule 7 has been a blot on our legal landscape for years – breathtakingly broad and intrusive, ripe for discrimination, routinely misused. Its repeal is long overdue.

Quoted on Liberty’s website, Brighouse said the case showed how vital human rights law is for protecting journalists.

Once again it has come to the rescue of press freedom in the face of arbitrary abuse of power by the State,” she said.

Miranda had been heading back to his native Brazil from Germany, and was carrying a hard drive containing encrypted journalistic material.

In his findings, Lord Dyson said: “If journalists and their sources can have no expectation of confidentiality, they may decide against providing information on sensitive matters of public interest.

That is why the confidentiality of such information is so important."

The appeal judgment does not have the power to end the use or misuse of Schedule 7, but by presenting a declaration of incompatibility it leaves it for the UK Parliament to decide how the law must be changed.